Reading Chris Ware’s Building Stories / It All Happened So Fast

by Edwin Turner

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As seems to be the case more often than not in this series of write-ups on reading Chris Ware’s Building Stories, I’ve taken the title from the first line of the first panel (below); you can see the scale of this chapter in folded broadside in the pic above (which also reveals the heart of this episode).

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This particular episode focuses again on Lonely Girl/Married Mom/The Amputee, who has slowly emerged as the protagonist of Ware’s novel. Here, she deals with the news of her father’s illness, an event that brings her back to her childhood home repeatedly. The motif of homes and buildings evinces again too, of course—it’s a subtle but omnipresent device in Building Stories:

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And as always, Ware’s genius shows in the way he conveys so much truth in the smallest detail. Below he illustrates Lonely Girl’s disconnected relationship with her architect husband in just a panel:

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“It All Happened So Fast” is a fair name for this chapter—Ware’s panels illustrate the way that our lives (and the narrativizing of those lives) can become radically compressed, how our memories fail us, how seemingly trivial details anchor themselves to the emotional strata of our personalities even as concrete fact slips away. Still, another title could come from this panel:

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I’ll close this out by offering three panels that strike me as so utterly real, so wonderfully truthful, that I won’t bother to comment further:

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